After a shaky April to end the 2013 regular season, the Bruins entered Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs with many concerns, the Bruins defensemen being one of them. For at least one night, the Bruins blueliners were far from being a concern.
Things got off to a bad start for the Bruins as the Maple Leafs got on the board first just 1:54 into the game thanks to James van Riemsdyk’s fifth career playoff goal, the Leafs tally came on just their second shot of the game.
After the goal, the Bruins flipped a switch and dominated the Leafs for the remainder of the game. The Bruins held the Maple Leafs to just 18 shots after the van Riemsdyk goal, the only time all night the Maple Leafs were able to get rubber past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
“Yeah, we gave up the early one but you want to bounce back” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “I thought that we did that and played pretty strong for 60 minutes.”
It wasn’t just the defensive play by the Bruins defensemen that stood out in Game 1; it was the offensive punch the Bruins blue liners brought to the table that really took center stage for the Black and Gold.
Wade Redden got the Bruins on the board shortly after the Leafs goal as his shot had eyes and trickled through the pads of Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer. A little more than three minutes later it was Redden setting the tone again as his rocket of a shot was tipped by Nathan Horton to give the Bruins their first lead of the evening.
“I was looking to get a shot on net, trying to go up with it. He [Nathan Horton] was right in a good spot and he got a good stick on it. That was a big goal, too, late in the first” said Redden who was one of three Bruins with a multiple point game.
Later in the second with the Bruins lead extended to two thanks to a David Krejci goal, Johnny Boychuk unloaded one of his famous “Johnny Rockets” to add to what was an impressive night all around for the Bruins defensemen. Boychuk was quick to credit Krejci for setting up his goal.
“He’s such a great player, and he did that a couple of times tonight” said Boychuk “I just feel fortunate to put one in the net.”
For a team that has struggled to put the puck in the net all season, getting goals from his defensemen was surely a welcoming sign for Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
“Well they did, and you know, we’re just one of those teams that we say we are a defensive team that can score. We know when we play good defense that’s what ignites our offense” said Julien.
Looking back at the defensive part of their game, the Bruins blue liners did a great job shutting down a talented group of Maple Leafs forwards.
Take away van Riemsdyk’s goal and team-high five shots and the Bruins defensemen held the Leafs top two lines to a combined six shots on goal, just one of those six came from the Leafs leading scorer, Phil Kessel.
As has been the case since Kessel was traded to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins didn’t give Kessel much space on the ice.
“Like with every offensive guy that’s really skilled, that’s got speed, you want to be tight on them” said defensemen Dennis Seidenberg.
“You want to have a good gap and don’t want to give them a lot of room to get speed, so the forwards doing a good job putting back pressure on him and the defensemen just stayed really tight on him for him not to get any room to make plays.”
If the Bruins can continue to get some offensive production from their blueliners things could get even better for a Bruins squad who will look to take a 2-0 series lead on Saturday night.